Hallo an alle meine guten freunde in Australien, wie sie sehen können sind wir jetzt in Berlin Deutschland, das land der wurst, bier und lederhosen.
Yes my faithful edddy travel blog readers we have been in Berlin for the last 3 days. Those who aren't immediate family members may not realise that I do have some German heritage. My mothers maiden name was Würfel (later anglicised to Werfel). While this is my first time in Germany, it felt.... well...like I had arrived home! Maybe thats where I get the interest in beer and sausage making from!
It was a 6 1/2 hr journey by train from Amsterdam, but it did give time to finish off one of the blogs. Sorry avid readers I got a bit behind.
We rented an apartment in the Prenzlaur district of the old East Berlin. As we have been sourcing our accommodation through a hosting website, the apartment was in a residential block outside the main tourist area. There were lots of bars and restaurants in the immediate area. The host just happened to be a young bloke from the U.S. who has been living in Berlin for many years. He recommended a place called Prater Garten which is the oldest beer garden in Berlin. We decided to give that a try on our first night in Berlin. The website when I looked later said it has been operating since 1837 and now ....."attracts artists and families, hipsters and professional people". Well I liked to think that I was at least a professional if not a hipster! It had its own house beers and served authentic German cuisine. Typically there was wurst and wiener schnitzel. I chose the kaiser ham which was 2 slabs of warm smoky ham served with mashed potatoes and gravy. Jane had some form of meatball with boiled potato and a caper sauce. I noticed that nothing on the menu had any other vegetable other than boiled or mashed potato... not a green or orange vegetable in sight! Everything was just the meat, potato and gravy plus a bit of bread. Clearly no woman had any influence over that menu! It was just the sort of food to drink beer. I had 2 steins, a 500ml Prater Pils and a dark Schwarzbier, also 500mls..... Well after all that kaiser ham was a little salty! Luckily the apartment was only a few hundred metres away for the walk home.
Our first day in Berlin we went and visited all the main attractions including the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie and remnants of the Berlin Wall. When Jane was last in Berlin in the 1970's she only got to see the Brandenberg Gate from the rear as the front faced into East Berlin... and of course Checkpoint Charlie was a proper U.S. manned Sentry. While the Checkpoint still remains, mainly as a land mark and tourist attraction, there are now 2 young German guys dressed up in U. S. Army uniforms getting people to pay to have photos taken with them... And talking in a mocking fashion with very bad Russian accents.
All over the city are large concrete cylindrical columns with pictures and stories of individuals who were persecuted and murdered by the Nazi regime. Along with the Topography of Terror (an outdoor museum), it is obvious that these are not only for tourists but as a reminder to the German nation as a whole how easy it was for a single man and his regime to manipulate a whole country from democracy to a murderous dictatorship (given the right economic and political conditions). The Topography of Terror in particular highlights the period around 1933, the first 12 - 18 months or so of Hitlers regime and describes how he managed to gain full and total control of the country.
Around all the tourist areas are the wurst venders selling their particular German snag along with some sauerkraut, a sauce of some description and a bread roll. Most interesting is a mobile version where a bloke has a portable grill around his neck with a small gas cylinder in a backpack. He is able to walk around cooking wurst and selling to the public wherever he wants. They must have had some padding or other way to protect themselves from burning their stomachs on the grill. I'm not sure Australian OH&S would allow those to operate at home! I will post a picture for all to marvel at. I found there was the museum of currywurst in Berlin. It was just around the corner from Checkpoint Charlie, so I thought it worth a visit. It turned out to be more a history lesson and with the cost of €17 thought I could buy a lot of wurst for that price. I had Jane take a picture to at least allow me to remember the occasion, even though I didn't enter to worship in the holy currywurst temple. I will need to do a little research as to my mind curry and traditional German cuisine don't seem to go together.... maybe curry is a recent addition....a fusion of Indian and German. Well I suppose the Brit's have adopted the curry as a national dish... So why not the Germans? I did try currywurst, it was a large pale looking hot dog cut up into pieces with tomato sauce, bread roll and a large sprinkling of commercial curry powder tipped over the top. Not very sophisticated really....but it was from a street vendor. I attach a picture of this gastronomical treat so you too can salivate over it.
On day 2 we visited the Pergamon museum. It is an ancient history collection including the Altar of Zeus, Ishtar Gate from Babylon and Pergamon Altar. Was a very impressive display. These treasures have been taken from archaeological digs dating from the late 1800's and up to early 1900's. Some believe the artefacts should be returned to what is now modern Turkey and Iraq.
We took the advice of the Trip-advisor app I had downloaded and visited a very small museum called the Museum Blindenwerkstatt - Otto Weidt. It was just by a tram stop we were to take back to our accommodation, so thought it was worth a visit....and it was free! It was just a few rooms in what was Herr Otto Weidt's old broom factory where he employed a number of deaf and blind people during the war, mainly Jews. The museum is just a number of photographs telling the story of how Otto and his wife protected most of his Jewish workers by bribing the Gestapo and convincing them that brush making was an essential industry. In the last years of the war his ability to protect his workers became harder and so he had to resort to hiding some Jewish employees and their families in a hidden room. This room was on display also. The Gestapo eventually discovered the hiding place and Otto himself was taken into detention and interrogated... but because of his previous bribes he was released. Otto managed to save a number of his Jewish employees... but not all. He survived the war. An added benefit of visiting this museum was the guy who sits at the little reception desk has the most extravagant moustache you have ever seen. It is large and wide and is a continuation of his sideburns and must have had some hair mousse to keep it in place and standing out. I wanted to take a picture, but decided not to as I may have embarrassed myself.... or him. I will do some googling in the hope that someone else may have posted a picture.
On day 3 we decided to do something a little different. We took the S-Bahn and walked through the Tier Garten and went to the Berlin Zoo. It is a very old Zoo and interesting to visit, but I would have to agree with some of my Trip-Advisor friends who wrote reviews, some of the enclosures are small and the larger animals such as the elephants, large cats and the great apes just look plain bored, pacing up and down. One of my cousins a young gorilla, started throwing bits of fruit at us... I was thankful it was only fruit.
Well Auf Wiedersehen pets.... Prague next.